Approximately $50 million in grants to support seafood processors, processing facilities and processing vessels through the Seafood Processors Pandemic Response and Safety Block Grant Program (SPRS) will come from The US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
This funding is linked to COVID and the pandemic’s impact on the fishing industry. Louisiana seafood processors are slated to receive $4.2 million of the available funds.
Distributed through state agencies, the funding will help to defray costs incurred by seafood processing facilities and processing vessels preparing for, preventing exposure to, and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘USDA is working with agricultural and food businesses to ensure that, following the pandemic disruptions, they have the resources and tools to continue building more and better markets, and to thrive in 2022 and beyond,’ said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt, commenting that the funding for seafood processors and processing vessels will serve as a bridge, providing relief to an industry that was greatly affected by the pandemic as well as the resulting changes in consumer demand.
Jeff Floyd, and his son Jon, of Gulf Crown Seafood Processing in Delcambre are one of the largest shrimp processing facilities along the Gulf. They are unsure of how much they would be eligible to receive. Early in the pandemic before adequate safely protocol was in place, Covid swept through the plant causing numerous illnesses and even death.
‘Without carefully studying this Block Grant Program, I am uncertain on our qualifications. We will have to carefully examine the documentation program,’ Jeff Floyd said.
Gulf Crown has implemented Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations for plant safety, as well as promoting complete immunisation of all employees.
‘Right now we have confident we are one of the safest seafood processing plants on the Gulf,’ said Jon, who manages production at the plant.
According to Frank Randol of the Gulf Seafood Foundation, a former crawfish processor who recently closed his plant in Lafayette, USDA’s $50 mill in grants trickles down to $4.2 million for Louisiana seafood.
‘Not enough considering the damages done to the fisheries by Covid, much less four hurricanes in two years,’ he said.
‘What the seafood processor, docks, fishermen in our state need is immediate access to the $200 million in federal funding for fisheries disaster assistance, money are being help up until a declaration of fisheries disaster by the Department of Commerce.’
Once USDA makes awards, state agencies will provide funds to seafood processing facilities and processing vessels. Seafood processors and processing vessels should apply directly through their state agency.
‘This program is part of our larger pandemic assistance program, providing support to producers, distributors, processors and other small agricultural businesses to get our food system back on track,” said the Under Secretary.